New Zealand's new police minister Paula Bennett has stated that the Port of Tauranga is being used to smuggle drugs into the country as she steps up counter-measures for the problem.
The port celebrated a new record in June of more than one million TEUs processed in a year – a first for any New Zealand port. However, the minister said this made it a hiding spot for illicit drugs.
"It is something to be expected," said Bennett. "It's happening all over our ports in New Zealand. There is no doubt more drugs are getting into the country."
New Zealand's border officials seized a record-breaking NZ$1.2 billion ($880 million) of meth and its precursors entering the country last year. Recent highlights include 35kg cocaine found inside a horse sculpture, 176kg of meth in shipping containers concealed as Chinese tea and 39.6kg of crystal meth hidden in a shipment from China which arrived at the Ports of Auckland described as granite tea trays.
Bennett said the nation was attractive as New Zealanders pay more for drugs than other areas of the world. She is escalating action against drug gangs with the establishment of a new organized crime unit in Tauranga. The unit been tasked with seizing NZ$400 million ($290 million) worth of criminal assets over the next four years.
Following Bennett's comments a Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said drug detection operations were routinely undertaken at the port. "We work very closely with the various agencies and authorities that police New Zealand borders for regulatory compliance, biosecurity protection and criminal activity," she said.